About a year ago Adam Lambert and Kris Allen stood on the stage and Ryan Seacrest announced that Kris Allen was the winner of Season 8 of American Idol. An American Idol victory can be a fast track to fame and fortune or it can be a pop culture blip that leads to obscurity. For Kris Allen the title became quite the burden to bear. There are high expectations placed on every American Idol winner but in Allen’s case he had the added weight of being the singer who defeated Adam Lambert in a singing contest.
Allen started his American Idol reign amidst the controversy that was described as Textgate. His home state, Arkansas, produced 38 million of the almost 100 million votes that determined the winner. Many of the votes came from Watch Parties sponsored by AT&T, a corporate sponsor of American Idol. Adam Lambert was chosen to be the water boy to put out this media fire and with dignity and class advised his fans that there was no issue and that they should move on. Little did Adam know that he was misled and Arkansas did change the outcome of Season 8.
How Kris Allen won or how Adam Lambert lost has little to do with what they did with their opportunity. The first inclination of what was to come by way of future success occurred on the American Idol tour. Lambert came out with full guns blazing, not only did he mesmerize the audience vocally every night he unleashed his high octane sensuality that for the most part was kept bottled up on the American Idol stage. During the Bowie medley Adam striped off his jacket for “Fame” exposing his broad shoulders and wide chest. The fans went wild because in spite of his guy liner, nail polish and glitter he oozed testosterone. Adam not only had undeniable vocal skills and showmanship we learned that this openly gay man was able to bring back a rock and roll tradition. Lambert’s stage was covered nightly with bejeweled lingerie, proving that females were inspired by this strutting rock star in tight leather pants no matter who he was going home with. As Lambert says, “sexy is sexy”.
Allen on the other hand was off to a difficult start. He was not the recipient of any undergarments, bejeweled or otherwise. “No Boundaries” the Season 8 winner’s song was beyond Allen’s range and was unpopular. It had to be dropped from his set on the American Idol tour. Because he won Allen had to follow Lambert. After the energy and excitement created by Lambert, Allen had the difficult task of keeping the audience from escaping to the outside barriers to position themselves for a Lambert autograph. Allen had limited success. In an effort to sustain the American Idol promotional spin Allen was awkwardly moved from instrument to instrument in an attempt to remind us that he is a musician as well a singer. How could the producers justify Allen’s win over Lambert? Allen did not capitalize on his opportunity to garner new fans. His live performances have never escalated beyond the measure of talent he displayed on American Idol. The acoustic John Mayer type artist Allen was predicted to be never materialized. In fact Lambert has done much more with the unplugged versions of his songs. Allen had to close his tour set with a group number bringing Adam back to the stage. Producer manipulation could not conceal that Adam Lambert was by far the more popular American Idol contestant.
Next came the albums. Allen was promoted as a singer / songwriter and wrote or co wrote most of the tracks on the album. Unfortunately Allen had the lowest album release sales in the history of American Idol winners. Allen’s first single “Live Like We’re Dying”, was a Script cover that went platinum in spite of the low album sales. The release of the second single, still not one written by Allen,” The Truth” featuring Pat Monahan of Train was met with angry resistance by many of Allen’s fans believing that Monahan detracted from the original version recorded on the album. Allen’s fans are doing him a disservice by their complaints. Allen’s label must fear that Allen needs to expand his dwindling fan base and Train’s fans may help revive him.
The week after Allen released his album Lambert released “For Your Entertainment” and by far surpassed Allen’s album sales even with the controversy created by ABC’s overreaction to Lambert’s AMA performance. The hullabaloo over the AMA’s caused a poor reception to Lambert’s single “For Your Entertainment” when DJ’s around the country refused to play it.
Adam quickly displayed his resilience by releasing “Whataya Want From Me”. A song co written by Pink about relationships became Adam’s plea to the American public. “Whataya Want From Me” has gone platinum and Lambert’s album “For Your Entertainment” is gold in the US and both are moving up the charts around the world. Unlike Allen, Lambert has a strong international fan base that continues to grow.
What the world is discovering about Lambert in his live performances is that his album “For Your Entertainment” is merely his pallet. The tracks laid down are only the colors he will use, but it is not his finished portrait. In each live performance Lambert takes each tune and artistically and creatively crafts a version to his whim. His variations appear to be endless. Vocally he is still exploring new and otherworldly realms. Far beyond what was displayed on American Idol we are learning that Lambert’s multi octave and technically beautiful vocals are not his only gifts. It is not only that he can sing like no other it is the genius of his artistry that will set him apart. That brilliance is just beginning to be unleashed.
In the year since American Idol propelled Allen and Lambert into the spotlight we have seen one emerged as the star and one who is headed for obscurity. Adam Lambert is the American Idol winner in every way that counts.